“We don’t get to play these deep cuts often,” G. Love recently told a sold-out audience at The Hamilton, which was part of the 30th anniversary tour for his 1994 debut album, G. Love & Special Sauce. Over the course of the evening, the band played the record, which nearly went gold and remains their most popular, in its entirety.
G. Love & Special Sauce plays an interesting and saucy — you can’t expect me not to grab that pun — musical style. It’s rap, but it’s quite distinct from most rap. It’s uncommon to see a rapper strumming an acoustic guitar, and G. Love is the only rapper I can think of who plays the harmonica. (I qualify this statement as my knowledge of rap and hip hop is limited, and it’s possible there’s someone I’m not aware of.) As their second song of the evening celebrates, “Blues Music” is an integral part of what they do, and it’s drawn them a fan base of crossover listeners who might not be primarily fans of rap.
At The Hamilton Live on Feb. 3, the set proceeded through the track order of the album, beginning with “The Things I Used To Do.” Between “Blues Music” and “Garbage Man,” G. Love told the audience the album is “all about the East Coast, not just Philly. It’s about DC, too.” “Shooting Hoops,” G. Love said, is about “the courts of Philly.”
Next up was “Some Peoples Like That,” and I must agree: Some peoples are, indeed, like that, except for the peoples who are like this. By this time, the pit in front of the stage had filled with people dancing to the music. The set continued with “Walk to Slide” and “Fatman,” which felt a little personally, as I’ve put on weight recently. Next up was “Town to Town,” followed by “This Ain’t Living,” “Rhyme for the Summertime,” and “Hip Hop 50.” G. Love closed the main set with the biggest hit from the album, “Cold Beverage.”
Watch the official music vide for “Cold Beverage” by G. Love & Special Sauce on YouTube:
The band left the stage, and G. Love come back, alone, to start the encore with a touching, solo acoustic rendition of “I Love You.” After that, he brought out Jakob Nowell of opener Jakob’s Castle for a cover of Sublime’s “Greatest Hits.” It was a fitting song for them to cover, as Sublime is clearly an influence on Nowell, and there’s a thread of similarity between Sublime’s playing with genres and what G. Love does. The same is true of the cover they played of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover;” with its extensive, often internal rhymes, Simon is almost rapping on that song. The encore also included “Who’s Got The Weed,” and the answer to that question was the couple next to me from West Virginia. The evening ended with “Baby’s Got Sauce.”
G. Love & Special Sauce performed a similar set at Rams Head on Stage in Annapolis, Maryland, on Feb. 1, when Steve Satzberg took the photographs that appear with this review.
As I mentioned, the duo Jakob’s Castle opened the show — both in DC and Annapolis. They’re a young band — they don’t have any recorded music released yet — and they had a lot of energy, so much so that it really made me feel my age. (I’m 43, and I recently made a conscious decision to listen to Bob Seeger, which means I’ve now entered middle age.) I mentioned the similarities between Jakob’s Castle and Sublime, and it was clear throughout their set how much that band has influenced. Their standout number was “Motel Radio,” which is about “all the things I’ve seen on tour.”
Saturday was a fun night, and it really took me back. G. Love & Special Sauce came out when I was 13, at a time when I was just getting into music on my own. It has a special place in my heart, and it was a joy to see it played, live, in its entirety.
Here are some photos of G. Love & Special Sauce performing at Rams Head on Live on Feb. 1, 2024. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Steve Satzberg.